The Wisdom in the Hebrew Alphabet: The Sacred Letters As a Guide to Jewish Deed and Thought


For more than a generation, Rabbi Michael L. Munk, as a sidelight to his busy schedule of educational and communal work, has fascinated audiences with his learned and provocative lectures on the Hebrew alphabet. In the process of opening eyes and raising eyebrows, he has convinced countless people that his contention is true: the Hebrew alphabet abounds in scholarly and mystical meaning. He has developed and proven a profound thesis. The alphabet -- if correctly understood -- is a primer for life. Ethical ...
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For more than a generation, Rabbi Michael L. Munk, as a sidelight to his busy schedule of educational and communal work, has fascinated audiences with his learned and provocative lectures on the Hebrew alphabet. In the process of opening eyes and raising eyebrows, he has convinced countless people that his contention is true: the Hebrew alphabet abounds in scholarly and mystical meaning. He has developed and proven a profound thesis. The alphabet -- if correctly understood -- is a primer for life. Ethical conduct, religious guidance, philosophical insights, all are nestled in the curls, crowns, and combinations of the Hebrew letters. This is one of those rare books that is both interesting and profound, learned and readable. The wisdom and compassion of the author is evident in those subtle ways that do not intrude on the reader, but give him the satisfaction of knowing that a rich, warm, productive lifetime of experience is flavoring the text.

Rabbi Munk was born in Berlin, the son of the illustrious chief rabbi of the Orthodox community. He was a leading battler against attempts to outlaw kosher slaughter in pre-Holocaust Germany, and pioneered in scientific research to prove the humaneness of shechitah. In London he founded the thriving Adath Yisrael Synagogue of Hendon; in America he was the founding principal of what is now the largest Orthodox girls school in the world, and he resumed his defense of pro-shechitah legislation in the nation's capital. After the war, he volunteered a year of his life to help the hapless survivors in Europe's Displaced Persons camps. A brilliant educator, author, and activist, Rabbi Munk has gained the respect and affection of thousands in a long and fruitful career

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780899061931
  • Publisher: Mesorah Publications, Limited
  • Publication date: 4/28/1983
  • Series: ArtScroll Mesorah Series
  • Edition description: 1st ed
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 451,011
  • Product dimensions: 7.32 (w) x 9.23 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Table of Contents

Letters of Approbation/[characters not reproducible] 8
In Memoriam 10
Author's Preface 13
Overview: Protoplasm of Creation
I. Primacy of Content
II. Letters and Utterances
III. World, Nations, Person 16
Prologue: The All-Encompassing Aleph-Beis: From Aleph to Tav
Complete Blessing and Tempered Curse
Consolation Amid Tragedy
Confession and Total Regret
Full Range of Praise
Power of the Aleph-Beis
The Letters and a Philosophy of Life 33
Table of Scripts and Numeric Values 42
God's Oneness and Mastery 43
Divinity (king of the letters)
God, Torah and Israel are One
From Aleph to Eleph to Aluph
Purity in Learning
Call to Teshuvah
Link between Heaven and Earth
Blessing and Creation; Duality and Plurality 55
Two Torahs: Written and Oral
Two Tablets
Commandments and Prohibitions
Two Leaders: Moses and Aaron
Two Genders: Adam and Eve
Two Drives: Two Hearts ([characters not reproducible], free choice)
Two Worlds: This World and the World to Come
Reishis is Torah, Israel, Challah
Bayis (house): a focal point
Holy Temple
Bayis denotes Wife
Oneness and Multiplicity
Kindness and Culmination 71
Three Pillars: Torah, Worship and Kind Deeds
God's overflowing Chessed
Torah Begins and Ends with Chessed
Abraham Emulates God's Chessed
Brotherly Kindness
Blending of Contrasts
The Three Partners
Set of Three
Three Divine Gifts
Dimensions and Concern 78
Four Dimensions and Spiritual Stages
Defining [characters not reproducible]
Lesson of the Letters
Discretion and Tact
Charity vs. Chessed
Chessed with Hand and Heart
Rich and Poor Benefit Equally
Wealth and Contentment of the Benefactor
Divinity, Gentility and Specificity 85
This World is Imbued with the Divine
Large and Small [characters not reproducible]
Abram becomes Abraham
Repentance and Mercy
Hashem Manifested in Silence
The Missing [characters not reproducible]
Five Apertures (Priestly Blessing)
The Weaker Arm (tefillin)
Two New Songs
The Definite Article
Name of God
Completion, Redemption and Transformation 94
Guarantor of Redemption
Conjunction and Continuity
Conversive Vav
From Anguish to Gladness and Vice Versa
The Many Meanings of Vav
Complete or Defective Spellings
Broken Vav
Spirit, Sustenance and Struggle 104
Seven is the Focal Point
Sustenance and Struggle
Armament: Measures of Self Defense
The Seventh Day
Provider of Sustenance
Sabbath and Israel
Sabbath and the World to Come
Enjoyment on the Sabbath
Transcendence, Divine Grace and Life 112
Structure and Symbolism
Interchangeable Letters
Goodness 118
The Objective Good
Man's Goodness and Humility
Diminished and Enlarged [characters not reproducible]
Creation and the Metaphysical 125
Inheritance of Torah
Fundamental Unit (the decimal system)
Allusions to God and Israel
Deleted and Added [characters not reproducible]
[characters not reproducible] For Emphasis
As Spokesman
Crowning Accomplishment 133
Three Crowns
Name of Objects
For Like (comparison)
End [characters not reproducible]; Suffix of Possession
Small [characters not reproducible]
Teaching and Purpose 138
Man's Learning and Teaching
Purpose and Transition
God the Master Teacher
Learning with Heart
Great [characters not reproducible] and Small [characters not reproducible]
Revealed and Concealed; Moses and Messiah 143
Where God Resides
Teaching the Revealed
Moses and the Messiah
[characters not reproducible] of History
Significance of 40
Faithfulness, Soul and Emergence 151
God is Faithful
Serving God in Two Ways
[characters not reproducible], soul, and [characters not reproducible], Candle
Downfall and Simultaneous Salvation
Inverted [characters not reproducible]
Support, Protection and Memory 159
Support and Enclosure
Creation of the Woman
[characters not reproducible] Stands for [characters not reproducible]
Mathematical Devices
[characters not reproducible] Alphabetic System
Acronyms (initials)
Sight and Insight 171
Reflection of the Universe
Man's Personality
Tempted Eye
Primeval Light
Eyes of God
Seventy Denotes Spirituality
Wine Reveals One's Innermost Self
Allegorical Reflections on the Shape of [characters not reproducible]
Rich Man, Poor Man
Support of Fellow Man
Speech and Silence 180
Man's Essence
A Time for Silence and a Time for Speech
Consistency of Mouth and Heart
Crucial Words
Seeing before Speaking
Righteousness and Humility 189
Righteousness: Divine and Human
Roads to Righteousness
The Tzaddik in both Worlds
Holiness and Growth Cycles 194
God's Holiness
Man's Holiness
Abstinence and Control
Hakafah Cycles
Choosing Between Greatness and Degradation 199
Anyone can Return
Heroic Penitent
Another Path to Repentance
God's Receptiveness
The Head
Erroneously Applied to Idols
The Passageway between Heaven and Earth
Divine Power and Script; but also Corruption 207
Mastery and Peace
Prayerful [characters not reproducible]
Symbolism of its three heads
The Rainbow
Two Kinds of [characters not reproducible]; Two Kinds of Script
[characters not reproducible], Shin--[characters not reproducible], Sin
Enlarged [characters not reproducible]
Truth and Perfection 214
Distant Neighbors
Truth is Life
God's Seal
Truth from the Start
Creations Depends on Truth
The Mark of Man's Final Destination
Esther, the Last of the Twenty-two Saintly Women
Epilogue: A Return to Origin: From Tav to Aleph 221
Universal Cycle of Return
Spiritual Cycle in the Universe
Faith in Providence
Continuous Cycle of Generations
Cycles in Religious Customs
[characters not reproducible]: Celestial Order of the Holy Letters
Appendix The Ksav Ashuris Script used in Torah Scrolls 232
Three Tannaitic Opinions
The Solution According to Mar Zutra
A Novel Solution
Index: Scriptural Verses/Subject 237
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